Alison Neubauer attributes her interest in sustainable lifestyles to her parents and to her college studies.
Neubauer is a 2009 graduate of Waupaca High School and a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, where she majors in physical geography and minors in environmental studies and anthropology. Her parents, George and Julie Nuebauer, are the former owners of a local bicycle shop and her mother is a certified yoga instructor.
Neubauer was also one of 14 finalists selected from among 2,500 college and high school students from 33 countries to participate in the Project Green Challenge in Marin County, California.
“When I became a vegan, I went online looking for ways to stay healthy,” Neubauer said. “One of the blogs I visited had a post about Project Green challenge.”
After reading about Teens Turning Green, the organization responsible for Project Green Challenge, Neubauer signed up and spent the month of October doing three to four projects per day. The goal of the projects is to help students find ways to make their lives more environmentally friendly.
Neubauer said each project had four levels of difficulty, rated Green, Greener, Greenest and Extra Credit. At the first level, she would research an issue, such as genetically modified food. At the second level, she would look at the issue in terms of regulations that require food labels to indicate if the product has been genetically modified and certification for organically grown food.
“At the Greenest level, I made an organic meal for under $2,” Neubauer said. “I made a stew out of Ramen noodles, potatoes and tomatoes and for dessert I had an apple cinnamon bake.”
Neubauer noted that while organic food tends to be more expensive than processed food, low-budget and healthier meals are possible.
Another of her projects involved yoga.
“Yoga contributes to a healthier state of mind, so you can have a healthier body,” Neubauer said.
At the end of October, 14 finalists were selected based on the total points earned on their projects, a video essay, overall content and a final exam.
“I was chosen as a finalist, so I was flown out to Marin County, California, for an extended weekend full of learning opportunities and delicious, organic food,” Neubauer said.
At the event, she learned about sustainable lifestyles and heard a number of speakers, including Pamm Larry, who led efforts to place Proposition 37 on California’s ballot. The proposition, which was defeated this year, would have required food labels to indicate if genetically modified organisms were used in the food.
Other speakers included Walter Robb, the co-CEO of Whole Foods, and Paul Towers, media director for Pesticide Action Network – North America.
“I went there thinking I knew a lot about sustainability. But one of the biggest things I learned was that there is so much more to learn,” Neubauer said, regarding her weekend learning experience. “It was a life-changing experience, something that will stick with me forever.”